Introduction to State of Illinois v. JS for Assault and Battery

Document Transcript

State of Illinois v. JS for Assault and Battery
Hancock Co., Illinois, Justice of the Peace Court, 1 August 1843
 
Historical Introduction
JS had a physical altercation with , Illinois, tax collector on 1 August 1843. JS and Bagby had apparently been at odds since at least March 1842. At that time, Bagby sought payment in taxes for lots in , even though that property had been subsumed into the city of in Hancock County. JS’s history condemned Bagby’s actions as a plot for “getting more money from the saints” by corrupt county officials. In July 1843, Bagby ordered the sheriff to seize a Nauvoo city lot from JS for alleged failure to pay taxes, although JS believed that the taxes on the lot had been paid. On 1 August 1843, JS rode in his buggy to the site of the with . There, JS discussed the city lot Bagby had ordered seized with scribe and instructed Clayton to speak with Bagby about the issue. During their conversation, Bagby approached the three men, and an argument ensued. JS accused Bagby of improperly seizing JS’s property and of abusing Nauvoo’s residents; Bagby denied any wrongdoing and called JS a liar. At that point, Clayton claimed that JS was “so enraged” that he left his carriage to follow Bagby, who in turn picked up a stone to throw at JS. However, before Bagby could throw the stone, JS grabbed him by the throat and “struck him two or three times.”
city and separated the two men and stopped them from fighting. JS instructed Wells “to assess the fine” for his actions and JS would pay it; however, Wells apparently declined to act. It is unclear whether JS wanted Wells to prosecute the case under the statute or the Nauvoo city ordinance, both of which defined . After the fight, JS and rode to the home of , a former city alderman who was still serving as a justice of the peace. There, Backenstos filed a complaint before Whitney that JS “Committed an assault on the body of one .” The complaint referenced the “State of Illinois,” but not the city of Nauvoo, suggesting that Whitney was prosecuting the case under the state statute rather than the city ordinance. From ’s account of the event it is unclear whether Whitney actually held a trial, as was required by state law, or simply assessed a fine against JS.
JS’s assault on led to considerable outrage in . JS publicly addressed the controversy at a worship service in on 13 August 1843, complaining about ’s actions to break up the fight and condemning Bagby for having “exercised more despotic power over the inhibtants [inhabitants] of this city than any despot of the Eastern country.” On 19 August 1843, Bagby and other Hancock County residents met in to organize the Anti-Mormon Party. One of the first charges the new organization leveled against JS in its public Preamble and Resolutions was that JS had “committed violence upon the person of an officer, because that officer dared honestly to do his duty according to law.” For his part, Bagby became a staunch enemy of JS and the church. Later in 1843, he wrote to his brother Charles in Kentucky that he would delay plans to move to that state because he felt “unwilling to leave the country now until I see the Arrogance of that abomination in human shape Joe Smith humbled low in the dust.”
 
Calendar of Documents
This calendar lists all known documents created by or for the court, whether extant or not. It does not include versions of documents created for other purposes, though those versions may be listed in footnotes. In certain cases, especially in cases concerning unpaid debts, the originating document (promissory note, invoice, etc.) is listed here. Note that documents in the calendar are grouped with their originating court. Where a version of a document was subsequently filed with another court, that version is listed under both courts.

Footnotes

  1. 1

    JS, Journal, 2 Mar. 1842; JS History, Draft Notes, 2 Mar. 1842, 5.  

  2. 2

    A Mr. Hamilton from Carthage—Canfield S. Hamilton, according to historian Rowena Miller—had evidently purchased lot 2 in block 103 of Nauvoo at a sheriff’s auction, likely after the lot had been seized for alleged failure to pay taxes. (Clayton, Journal, 1 Aug. 1843; JS, Journal, 5 Sept. 1843; Miller, “Study of Property Ownership: Nauvoo,” 103.)  

    Clayton, William. Journals, 1842–1845. CHL.

    Miller, Rowena J. “Study of Property Ownership: Nauvoo; Original Town of Nauvoo, 1839–1850,” ca. 1965. In Nauvoo Restoration, Inc., Corporate Files, 1839–1992. CHL.

  3. 3

    Clayton, Journal, 1 Aug. 1843; JS, Journal, 13 Aug. 1843.  

    Clayton, William. Journals, 1842–1845. CHL.

  4. 4

    “Affidavit of Hyrum Smith,” Times and Seasons, 1 Aug. 1842, 3:870–872; Clayton, Journal, 1 Aug. 1843.  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

    Clayton, William. Journals, 1842–1845. CHL.

  5. 5

    Illinois law granted justices of the peace “jurisdiction of all cases of assaults, and of assault and battery, and affrays” and authorized them to fine guilty parties between three and one hundred dollars. However, these fines were only supposed to be addressed after a trial, and offending parties were ineligible to initiate the legal process for these offenses. Nauvoo city ordinances similarly stated that anyone who “by quarrelling, fighting, assaulting, beating, or otherwise” injured another person could be fined between three and one hundred dollars and possibly imprisoned for up to six months. As a Nauvoo alderman, Daniel H. Wells possessed “all the powers of Justices of the Peace therein, both in civil and criminal cases” and could have tried the offense under either the state law or the city ordinance. (An Act to Extend the Jurisdiction of Justices of the Peace [29 Dec. 1826], Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois, pp. 414–415, sec. 1; Ordinances, 30 Jan. 1843; Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 3 Feb. 1841, 1; Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840.)  

    The Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois: Containing All the Laws . . . Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835; and at Their Second Session, Commencing December 7, 1835, and Ending January 18, 1836; and Those Passed by the Tenth General Assembly, at Their Session Commencing December 5, 1836, and Ending March 6, 1837; and at Their Special Session, Commencing July 10, and Ending July 22, 1837. . . . Compiled by Jonathan Young Scammon. Chicago: Stephen F. Gale, 1839.

  6. 6

    Clayton, Journal, 1 Aug. 1843; Complaint, 1 Aug. 1843 [State of Illinois v. JS for Assault and Battery]. In accordance with the Nauvoo charter, when Whitney was elected an alderman for the Nauvoo City Council in February 1841, he was also commissioned as a justice of the peace for the city and for Hancock County. Illinois law held that justices of the peace were to serve four-year terms. Although Whitney had not been reelected as a city alderman in 1843, it seems that he nevertheless remained a justice of the peace. According to Backenstos’s complaint, Whitney tried the case as “an acting Alderman of the City of Nauvoo.” (Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840; Minutes, 3 Feb. 1841, Copy; Oaths from Nauvoo City Officers, 3 and 8 February 1841; An Act to Provide for the Election of Justices of the Peace and Constables [30 Dec. 1826], Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois, p. 400, sec. 4; Complaint, 1 Aug. 1843 [State of Illinois v. JS for Assault and Battery].)  

    Clayton, William. Journals, 1842–1845. CHL.

    The Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois: Containing All the Laws . . . Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835; and at Their Second Session, Commencing December 7, 1835, and Ending January 18, 1836; and Those Passed by the Tenth General Assembly, at Their Session Commencing December 5, 1836, and Ending March 6, 1837; and at Their Special Session, Commencing July 10, and Ending July 22, 1837. . . . Compiled by Jonathan Young Scammon. Chicago: Stephen F. Gale, 1839.

  7. 7

    Complaint, 1 Aug. 1843 [State of Illinois v. JS for Assault and Battery].  

  8. 8

    Clayton, Journal, 1 Aug. 1843.  

    Clayton, William. Journals, 1842–1845. CHL.

  9. 9

    JS, Journal, 13 Aug. 1843; Clayton, Journal, 13 Aug. 1843.  

    Clayton, William. Journals, 1842–1845. CHL.

  10. 10

    “Great Meeting of Anti-Mormons!,” Warsaw (IL) Message, 13 Sept. 1843, [1].  

    Warsaw Message. Warsaw, IL. 1843–1844.

  11. 11

    Walter Bagby, Carthage, IL, to Charles D. Bagby, Glasgow, KY, 26 Nov. 1843, Bagby-Rogers-Wood-Fishback Family Papers, University of Kentucky, Lexington.  

    Bagby-Rogers-Wood-Fishback Family Papers, 1805–1910. Special Collections, Margaret I. King Library, University of Kentucky, Lexington.